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Full text of "NightRider"

347

The officer drew his feet closer together, the knees flexing a
little. "Come on, lady, come on, now," he kept saying
coaxingly.

Mr. Munn saw the soldier lean toward the door-jamb. He
saw his hand stealthily rise. " Isabella!" he shouted warn-

ingly, " watch-----" But the soldier behind him chunked

him heavily in the ribs with the carbine butt so that he fell
to one knee, gasping. And at the instant he fell, the hand
reached round the door-jamb and swept down to seize the
barrel of the shotgun, and the officer plunged sideways, and
the roar of the gun filled the hall.

"I got it," the soldier at the door shouted. The shotgun
dangled loosely from his grasp.

Downstairs, one of the women screamed.

The officer stepped into the room, his pistol drawn. The
soldier with the lamp followed, then the deputy.

Mr. Munn rose slowly to his feet. There, before him on the
floor, was the mark where the charge of shot had buried itself
in the oak planking.

The women, calling, were coming up the stairs.

The girl was sitting on the floor, her head pressed against
the door-jamb and her shoulders shaking with sobs. Professor
Ball, on his knees beside her, the skirts of his long black coat
almost brushing the floor, as when he knelt to pray, was
moving his clumsy bandaged hand over her hair with a
mechanical gesture of comfort. He was mumbling something,
Mr. Munn could not make out what.

Mr. Munn turned to meet the interrogation and distress on
the faces of the women. " It's all right," he said.

As Portia moved quickly toward the doorway, the officer
came out, the soldier with the lamp behind him. He looked
down at the huddled girl. Professor Ball rose, his tall, thin
figure weaving crankily. He put out his hand to the wall to
brace himself. "You didn't have to do that," he told the
officer, his voice croaking and distant.

The officer did not seem to hear him. "Miss," he said,
addressing the girl on the floor, " Miss, I sure------"